5.4.1 Sectors and Occupations
It is difficult to predict with certainty the required skills mix to meet both the demands of enterprise and the requirements for effective participation in the wider community over the period 2020. However, the projections contained in this report provide a broad indication of the occupations and sectors in which additional skills will be required.
The sectors identified as showing significant employment growth include: finance and business services, public administration, education and health, market services, building, distribution transport and communications136. In addition to these, the ESG believed that high value-added manufacturing would continue to be a key component of Ireland’s enterprise base. After considering our existing strengths and sectoral prospects, it put forward an indicative list of opportunities for further development/ future growth in high value-added manufacturing in a broad range of sectors including medical devices, pharmaceuticals/biotechnology, ICT, engineering, food and consumer goods. Based on Expert Group research, broad occupational groupings exhibiting significant employment growth into the future include managers and proprietors, science and engineering professionals, business, legal and other professionals, health associate professionals, clerical, sales occupations, carers, other service and protective activities, and other associate professionals137.
Part of the State’s role is to facilitate timely and relevant information flow between enterprise, education and training providers and to ensure that there is a system which continually communicates changing skills requirements to those both in the workforce and within the formal education system. In particular, the Expert Group recognises that its own role will be vital in ensuring that policymakers are kept up-to-date with the latest labour market trends and shifting skills demands.
The processes currently in place at regional and sectoral level for passing information between enterprise and training providers needs to be reviewed. Specifically at regional level, the role of key agencies (EI, FÁS and the IDA Ireland ), providers in further education and higher education (VECs, institutes of technology, universities), and county and regional structures should be examined to establish how they can play a greater role in ensuring that skills needs are identified and communicated widely and in a timely manner.
The Expert Group has already commented on many of the features of a system which communicates changing skills requirements to those both in the workforce and within the formal education system in Careers and Labour Market Information in Ireland (2006). The key recommendations therein, which include the development of a central careers portal and a strengthening of career guidance for both adults and students, retain a particular relevance in the context of a National Skills Strategy138.
Finally, much of the forecast employment growth is likely to occur in ‘managerial and proprietorial’ occupations as well as ‘business, legal and other professionals’. Consideration should be given as to how demand for these occupations will be met through provision by the formal tertiary sector and the professional bodies responsible.
5.4.2 Generic Skills
The report highlights the need for an increasing range of generic skills in order for individuals to operate successfully within society and the economy. The principal generic skills identified were:
- Basic/fundamental skills — such as literacy, numeracy, using technology;
- People-related skills — such as communication, interpersonal, team-working and customer-service skills; and
- Conceptual skills — such as collecting and organising information, problem-solving, planning and organising, learning-to-learn skills, innovative and creative skills.
These skills should be prioritised and embedded into all publicly funded education and training provision in so far as possible. DES and DETE should act to ensure that these skills are being acquired and explicitly assessed at all levels of the education and training system. In this context, the accreditation of prior experiential learning needs to be part of the assessment and accreditation process. This is of particular importance as a link in the chain of policies and actions designed to encourage upskilling within the labour force.
In terms of literacy, in May 2006 the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science published a paper entitled Adult Literacy in Ireland. The Expert Group notes the recommendations of that report and highlights the particular importance of a number of them:
- The proposal that the long term objective should be to halve the number of persons on the lowest level of literacy — as defined by the IALS — and to do this in half a generation, or 15 years;
- As an intermediate step, the proposal that during the course of the National Development Plan 2007- 13, a programme should be implemented which will require a quadrupling of the adult literacy tuition budget from €25 to about €100 million by 2013 with an additional €25 million for improving ancillary and support services;
- The recommendation that the number of students annually engaged in literacy programmes should be doubled, and that the average number of hours of instruction per student be increased; and
- The commitment to evaluation and quantifiable objectives, as well as the Committee’s call to consider various financing methods.
5.4.3 Disciplines and Curricula
Forecasts suggest that the largest outputs from the tertiary education system over the period to 2020 will be in the areas of ‘social science, business and law’ (25.8 percent), followed by ‘humanities and arts’ (21.7 percent) and ‘engineering and construction’ (14.5 percent). The strategically important subjects of science and IT are forecast to account for 9.1 percent and 6.2 percent of tertiary graduates respectively139.
The development of a knowledge economy is dependant on a strong supply of scientists, engineers and technologists. Ireland also needs a strong cadre of researchers if it is to meet its strategic objectives for Science, Technology and Innovation and fulfil its EU commitments under the Lisbon agenda140. While it is possible to import such skills through immigration channels, in order to develop a sustainable science/ technology base in Ireland, it is necessary to ensure that there is an adequate and certain domestic supply of these skills. The Government should, therefore, continue to promote Science, Engineering, ICT and R&D skills as an integral part of a knowledge-based economy.
For students to pursue these disciplines, they must have a strong foundation in mathematics. The results from Leaving Certificate 2006 give cause for concern; out of a cohort of 54,110 students141, just 14 percent secured an honours grade (grade C3 or higher) in higher level mathematics — this contrasts with 43 percent of students achieving a similar grade in English. Looking at the science subjects, there were also low levels of achievement; 7 percent, 8 percent and 23 percent of the full Leaving Certificate cohort secured an honours grade in higher level physics, chemistry and biology respectively.
Since a C+ grade in higher level mathematics is a prerequisite for most engineering and some hi-tech courses, it is clear that the Leaving Certificate results automatically exclude the vast majority of students from pursuing these careers. Furthermore, a pass in mathematics is required for students wishing to progress to many other third level courses. Thus, 26 percent of the Leaving Certificate cohort in 2006142 had limited opportunities to participate in tertiary education, solely on the basis of their mathematics results. Poor performance in mathematics, however, is not just an educational concern. It also has potentially severe economic consequences, given Ireland’s desire to develop a knowledge economy. In this respect, the current NCCA review of the post-primary mathematics curricula is to be welcomed.
Mathematics is fundamentally important to the educational and economic well-being of the country. For this reason the review process at second level needs to expedited and prioritised, and once completed should be accorded immediate consideration by all relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, the success of the revised primary mathematics curriculum needs to be evaluated and any positive lessons built upon at second level ensuring continuity for the learner. Given the importance of mathematics a strategic approach to its development needs to be adopted.
The NCCA’s work on senior cycle reform adopts the premise that, by 2010, school culture will have changed fundamentally to one where senior cycle students are treated as adults, have a greater say in the running of the school, have more flexibility, less supervision and greater time for self directed learning.
The NCCA proposals envisage the re-structuring of senior cycle programmes into subjects, short courses and Transition Units; the re-structuring of LCVP/Transition innovatory features into Transition Units such as work-related learning, special studies, community participation, arts education, ICT literacy, study skills etc.; and a senior cycle that can be 2 or 3 years in duration.
The NCCA, at the request of the Minister for Education and Science, is currently undertaking a review of all Leaving Certificate subjects with a view to embedding key skills such as learning to learn, information processing, personal effectiveness, communication, critical thinking and working with others and to providing for a second assessment component in subjects where this does not already exist. The NCCA has also been requested to develop, as an exemplar, a short course in enterprise education.
The work on reconfiguration of subjects is underway and Phase 1, which will prioritise maths, science and languages, is due to be completed in 2007.
5.4.4 Skills for the Enterprise Sector
As previously set out in this report, the ESG identified skills in the area of sales and marketing, supply chain management, R&D, language skills and management skills in general as important from an enterprise development perspective.
Equally, EI has identified a vision for the development of the indigenous sector which will require the development of those skills. Ireland needs to continue to support indigenous enterprise to identify their skills needs and to develop those skills which are critical to the development of the sector.
Management development is of particular importance. Management capability has a cascade effect on the level of upskilling undertaken by employees. The Small Business Forum and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs have highlighted the need for the creation of a management development council during 2006. This recommendation now requires action.
 As highlighted previously, analysis of CAO acceptances by discipline from 2000 to 2005 show a significant fall-off in interest in engineering and computing at levels 6, 7 & 8, and a fall-off in science at levels 6 & 7. This obviously impacts on the number of graduates from these disciplines.
 The Heads of EU States agreed the European Research Area (ERA) project at the Lisbon Summit in 2000 as a contribution to making Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010. At Barcelona in 2002, they set two targets (1) a target for Europe of achieving Gross Expenditure on R&D as of % of GDP of 3% by 2010; with (B) two thirds (i.e. 2%) to come from the private sector.
 From State Examinations Commission data; this figure includes the total number of candidates sitting the Leaving Certificate (Established), the LC Vocational Programme and the LC Applied Programme. It also includes both external and repeat candidates.
 This proportion of the full cohort of 54,11 0 is composed as follows: 4,371 achieved below grade D at either Higher Level or Ordinary Level; 5,104 sat the Foundation Level paper which does not satisfy minimum entry requirements for some third level courses; 1,721 on the LC (Established) and Vocational programmes did not sit any mathematics paper; and a further 3,155 took the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.